Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Closing arguments Thursday in SF Weekly trial

After more than four weeks of testimony, closing arguments will likely take place Thursday in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's predatory pricing lawsuit against the SF Weekly and its parent Village Voice Media.

It's a case in which a locally owned independent claims that a national chain is cutting its ad prices to below cost with the intention of running it out of business. Kind of like how Wal-Mart, when it moves into a small rural town, cuts its prices so low that people stop shopping at Main Street businesses. Once those local businesses close, Wal-Mart jacks up its prices to recoup its losses. Then it moves on to other towns.

Both sides in this lawsuit agree that Bruce Brugmann's Guardian has had tough times. But the SF Weekly says he has only himself to blame for his business bloopers. The Weekly has argued that the Guardian was out of touch with younger readers, didn't keep up with changing market conditions and didn't adapt to the Internet soon enough.

The Chronicle, Examiner and AP haven't written a word about the trial being heard in SF Superior Court judge Marla Miller's courtroom. Only the little SF Daily and SF activist/lawyer Randy Shaw's Beyond Chron Web site have covered it.

Mark Fitzgerald of E&P reported yesterday on how each of the weeklies is covering the trial with blogs that "that are gleefully unconcerned about appearing objective, and recall the great newspaper feuds of yesteryear."

It's possible that the blogs are aimed at jurors. While judge Miller has told jurors not to read news accounts of the trial, the blogs have picked up on incredibly small details of each day's testimony and attempted to spin them. It wouldn't take a fan of John Grisham to conclude that somebody was hoping to commit online jury tampering. Why else would the SF Weekly's writer, who was brought in from headquarters to cover the trial, recite in detail the evidence that the judge had excluded from trial? But, of course, jurors never go online when return home every night.

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